Wheaton's French Market has received a new license from the city council that will allow it to continue operating for three more years.
Despite earlier concerns about the fee amount, Bensidoun USA, Inc., will continue to pay $2,500 a season to hold the market in a downtown parking lot. That's the same amount Bensidoun has paid the city during its current seven-year agreement, which is set to expire March 31.
During a Feb. 3 meeting, the council directed staff members to research how much Bensidoun paid to host its markets in 11 other suburban areas.
At that time, Councilman Phil Suess said he thought Wheaton's fee should increase because the $2,500 comes to less than $100 a week. He was not present Tuesday when the council extended the license.
Staff members found Wheaton's fee actually was the highest of the suburban markets. Some towns even let Bensidon run the market for free.
The Wheaton market, however, is Bensidoun's largest, with an average of 65 vendors each week. Staff members said that means individual vendors at Wheaton's market face higher fees from Bensidoun because it is classified as a "Class I" market.
"I'm glad we did our due diligence," Councilman Todd Scalzo said. "It's one of our most popular attractions, so I'm happy to keep them here."
Wheaton's new downtown strategic and streetscape plan includes the construction of a permanent French Market structure. Because of that, City Manager Don Rose said the new license with Bensidoun includes a clause that would allow the city to terminate the agreement on relatively short notice.
The market, which is held at the intersection of South Main Street and East Liberty Drive, runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays from spring to fall. This year's opening date is April 19.